On December 13, 1878, a meeting was held in Montgomery for the purpose of forming a bar association, and on January 15, 1879, delegates from each county met for five days at a preliminary conference in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The Constitution and By-laws were adopted and officers elected to serve until the first annual meeting. W.L. Bragg of Montgomery was elected president. An act incorporating the State Bar Association was approved by the governor on February 12, 1879, and E.W. Pettus of Dallas County was elected president.
Thomas Goode Jones of Montgomery drafted a code of professional ethics, and an December 14, 1887, the Alabama Bar became the first in the country to adopt a code of legal ethics. The Alabama code was the foundation of the canons of ethics later adopted by the American Bar Association and by other states.
The State Bar, as a voluntary body, continued in efforts toward improvement of the legal profession. In August, 1923, an Act of the Alabama Legislature provided for the organization, regulation and government of the Alabama State Bar, thereby officially creating an "integrated bar." The first meeting was held on January 8, 1924, in Montgomery, and on February 12, 1924, the Board of Commissioners appointed the first Board of Examiners. Rules were established to regulate requirements for admission to practice law and to govern the conduct of attorneys in Alabama.